Behind-the-Scenes Tours You Never Knew Existed

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If you and your brood have stomped one too many times on the same,  familiar ground, get a fresh perspective at some of the area’s most popular attractions with these behind-the scene tours.

mt. vernonPhoto: George Washington’s Mount Vernon via Facebook

Mount Vernon
Add a little movie magic to your Mount Vernon visit with the “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” tour. Visitors will retrace the steps of treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates from a “secret” basement to a fictitious tunnel as they learn how George Washington utilized these areas of the plantation in a sixty-minute tour that melds history with Hollywood.

When: Daily tours Apr. through Oct., at 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 1 pm and 3 pm.
Cost: $5 (General admission tickets are required)
200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy. (Alexandria, Va)

national-zooPhoto: Smithsonian’s National Zoo via Facebook

Smithsonian Conservatory Biology Institute
Bison, endangered cranes and maned wolves are just some of the exotic animals that roam the SCBI campus. For two days each year, this research facility— nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains—hosts an Autumn Conservation Festival where the public can explore its scenic campus and learn more about the endangered species that call SCBI home.

When: Oct. 3-4
Cost: $30 per vehicle
1500 Reymount Rd.(Front Royal, Va)

washington-nationalsPhoto: Nationals Stadium via Facebook

National Stadium
This tour knocks it out of the park! For future pro ballers, the tour highlight will be throwing a pitch in the National’s Bullpen. This ninety minute, stroller-friendly tour also includes a sneak peek at the press box, the visiting team’s clubhouse, luxury suits and more.

When: Tours run from Apr. 10 through Nov.29. Check the website for daily times.
Cost: $15/adults; $12/ kids 12 and under; Free/under 2
1500 S Capitol St., SE

the-strathmorePhoto: Strathmore via Facebook

The Mansion at Strathmore
Budding artists will enjoy this kid-friendly guided tour which takes young art lovers “behind the scenes” of art pieces exploring the head, heart and history of the artist. Tours are followed by a hands-on art activity.

When: Sept 12 and Dec. 19 at 10:15 am
Cost: $5 (Accompanying adult, free).
10701 Rockville Pike (North Bethesda, Md)

washington-nationalPhoto: Washington Cathedral via Facebook

Washington National Cathedral
Little Star Wars fans will love playing Where’s Waldo, errr, Darth Vader, at the National Cathedral. Discover Darth Vader’s secret location and other lesser known attractions on this tour of hidden hallways and secret stairwells. Guided tours are available (children must be 11 or older. ttp://, but you can also discover most of these gems by using this self-guided tour (

When: 10 am to 5:30 pm
Cost: $10 per adult, $6 per child (ages 5–12), senior, military (active or veteran), or student. Children 4 and under are free. No admission charge on Sundays.
3101 Wisconsin Ave., NW

Are there any other kid-friendly tours that are off the beaten path? Let us know in the comments below. 

—Meghan Meyers